The Benefits (And Risks) of Taking the Most Popular Supplements. Picture this: you’re roaming through the health care aisle of your local grocer. You’re on a mission to find supplements you could take to improve your health. You could use a boost in building muscle. It wouldn’t hurt to have some added vitamins and minerals, either.
But when you read the labels, you’re unsure which substances to trust. Which pills are over-hyped scams, and which are truly helpful? There are so many to choose from; you’re overwhelmed.
Does this sound like you?
Nutritional supplements are a $128B industry worldwide. Naturally, there will be some phony products competing with genuinely healthy supplements. And even beneficial supplements come with risks as well as benefits.
Want to know the facts about the most popular supplements you’re likely to find in your local store? Read on!
What’s Missing From Your Meal?
Wouldn’t we get all the necessary chemicals for our bodies in the foods we eat in a perfect world?
Of course, we would– but our world is far from perfect!
Our processed, mass-produced diets cannot be expected to hold every ingredient we need to thrive.
An Overview of the Most Popular Supplements
According to Harvard Health Publishing, the essential nutrients we find missing in our diets are calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and D. That’s a hefty list!
Also, our modern world presents unique challenges such as anxiety, insomnia, and depression, all of which come with their own types of herbal remedies. Think, for instance, of popular supplements such as melatonin, St. John’s Wort, and Kava.
Let’s explore the benefits and risks of the most popular supplements below.
Vitamin D’s benefits lay mostly in bone health. By helping with the absorption of calcium in the gut, vitamin D ensures the precious calcium can make its way into your skeleton.
In addition to boosting bone health, vitamin D strengthens muscles, boosts the immune system, and can help prevent diabetes.
But in high doses, vitamin D can have some serious downsides. It turns out too much calcium absorption is a disaster. When too much calcium floods the bloodstream, it can lead to kidney disease, muscle pains, depression, and stroke.
Talk about too much of a good thing!
Likely the most famous of the vitamins, vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is a compound found in many fruits and vegetables. Ascorbic acid is responsible for the creation of collagen, the healing of injuries, and the health of bones, cartilage, and teeth.
In addition, ascorbic acid is believed by some to help prevent or treat asthma, bronchitis, chronic pain, cataracts, glaucoma, and heart disease, among others.
As is the case with so many supplements, vitamin C should only be taken up to the maximum recommended dosage. More than that and the patient risks heartburn, nausea, headaches, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.
In addition, pregnant women should be careful not to take too much vitamin C as it may harm the fetus.
Women’s health, in particular, requires highly professional supplements. Check out these female wellness products from Lorna Van Der Haeghe for an example of women’s supplements done right.
Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is in short supply in many human bodies worldwide. It’s known to help prevent night blindness, fertility problems, stunted growth in children, and various infections.
Retinol also helps lower cancer risk, keeps skin and hair looking and feeling healthy.
But like the other supplements covered here, overdoing vitamin A intake can lead to big problems. Symptoms of vitamin A overdose include a change in skin color, psoriasis, and dry lips, mouth, and nose.
Long-term abuse can lead to higher cholesterol, liver damage, and even malformed bones!
St John’s Wort
This all-natural depression remedy is popular among patients seeking an alternative to expensive, challenging SSRI treatments like Prozac.
Many studies have confirmed St John’s Wort’s effectiveness in relieving symptoms of depression. The US National Library of Medicine reported it was “not significantly different from antidepressant medication” in its ability to relieve mild to moderate depression symptoms.
SJW is, therefore, a pretty great choice for anyone suffering from depression who may lack affordable health insurance or a qualified medical professional to prescribe traditional antidepressants. Many feel more comfortable taking an herb each morning than trusting a drug cooked up in a laboratory by big Pharma.
However, St John’s Wort has some dangers that a prospective user must be aware of. In particular, it’s well-known that SJW interacts poorly with many medications.
If combined with traditional SSRIs or MAOIs, SJW can potentially cause “Serotonin Syndrome,” as discussed on Healthline.
But almost any other medication has a negative interaction with St John’s Wort– for instance, heart medicine and drugs for heart disease, HIV, and cancer.
Also known as piper methysticum, Kava is a natural root frequently ground into a powder and drank for its relaxing effects. The experience of Kava is much like that of taking a benzodiazepine such as Xanax, Valium, or Klonipin.
Because so many people find it calming, Kava is a popular natural replacement for anti-anxiety medications. Traditional pharma solutions can be costly and come with dangerous withdrawal effects.
However, using too much Kava comes with some serious risks. Most shockingly, kava abuse leads to liver problems such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure. As a result, alcohol should always be avoided when taking Kava.
Diet First, Pills Second
As you can see, the truth is that even the most popular supplements can be dangerous when overdone.
The safest bet is to eat a healthy diet that can supply most of one’s needed vitamins and minerals.
But in today’s world, that is likely not enough. If you need supplements, be sure to do your research, choose something with proven positive effects, and never take more than instructed.